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'Haunted' lacks charm, humor

December 4, 2003
Eddie Murphy plays Jim Evers, a real-estate agent who brings his wife Sara (Marsha Thomason), and his two children to historic Gracey Manor. —

What is it with Hollywood?

If one formula works, then why not do it again, right? Wrong.

"The Haunted Mansion" is hot on the heels of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," the surprise hit of the summer.

Only what "The Haunted Mansion" lacks is Johnny Depp,who made the other movie the hit it was. This time, it's Eddie Murphy as Jim Evers, a real-estate agent. Murphy plays a character so obsessed with selling houses and making money, he doesn't spend time with his wife, Sara, and two children.

After missing his anniversary for a sale, he makes plans with the family to go to the lake for the weekend. But their plans change slightly when Ramsley (Terence Stamp) calls, asking for Sara to come to the Gracey Mansion because they are looking to sell. Murphy talks his wife into going to the mansion before heading off to the lake for the weekend. The family becomes stuck in a mansion haunted by the ghosts of the family and servants that once lived there.

"The Haunted Mansion" just doesn't have the charm of the last Disney ride-based flick, even though it was written by "Elf" screenwriter David Berenbaum. It's a case where your kids will laugh, while Murphy might give you chuckle in the end. The jokes are almost too Saturday-morning cartoon for their own good, and lighten up scenes of corpses chasing Evers and his daughter Megan (Aree Davis).

It's sad to see former "Saturday Night Live" actors such as Murphy, Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd fall into making such terrible movies after giving us so many laughs. Murphy has been kidding up his act lately with cutesy family flicks which have taken away much of the edge he once had. Where is the streetwise Axel Foley or the sharp-witted comic of the 1980s? Yes, it's true performers need to grow and do other things, but they shouldn't make schlock just because the money is good.

Terence Stamp is fresh from this year's worst film, "My Boss's Daughter," and does little to be scary, let alone a good villain. Instead, Stamp seems content being straight-faced, delivering his lines in his thick English accent. I've yet to figure out why the character doesn't move at the end of the picture to stop Murphy from ruining his evil plans. Usually, when someone is going to foil an evil plot, they deserve more of an effort from the bad guy to stop them. Maybe Stamp just wanted to get the whole movie over so he could move on to his next piece of dung on film.

As a kiddie movie, this one isn't going to be one of the most beloved. It's a mediocre effort that should have been released in October instead of during the Thanksgiving weekend. It's a shame to see filmmakers so bankrupt for ideas that amusement-park rides are now the inspiration behind making a movie. I just hope the same time next year we don't have Tim Meadows in "Space Mountain," or Kevin Nealon in "Body Wars."

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